Knicks’ Julius Randle shed tears over Kenny Payne’s departure

At Friday’s inaugural press conference in Louisville, former Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne said he, Knicks president Leon Rose and senior adviser William Wesley “cried six, seven times a day” over his decision to lose his to go to alma mater.

Payne left out Julius Randle, the former Kentucky stallion that Payne recruited from Dallas in 2013 to be part of the Wildcats’ No. 1 class.

“Selfishly, it made me sick,” Randle said Friday night after the Knicks topped the Wizards, 100-97, in the garden. “I cried twice to be honest. It made me sick because I didn’t want him to go but at the same time I wanted him to go. I never told him that. But he had to.

“What he’s done for us, the Knicks, in general is incredible – from player development to personality management. Personally, it goes a lot deeper, man. You’re talking about a little boy from Dallas. Me and my mother. I am a 17 year old child. He came to my house. But my mother sent me away, her only boy? He came to my house and said to my mother, ‘I got you. You don’t have to worry.” He took me in as if I were his own child and really cared for me.”

Julius Randle (left) had a close relationship with Kenny Payne (right).
NBAE via Getty Images

When coach Tom Thibodeau recalled Payne’s nearly two-year tenure as a Knicks assistant, it was his work with Randle on the front lines.

When Payne came on board for the 2020-21 season, the 6-foot-8 power forward received the Most Improved Player award, was a first-time All-Star, and was named Second Team All-NBA. Randle has declined this season but still averages 20.4 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Wesley, who has close ties to the Kentucky program, hired Payne even though Thibodeau didn’t know him.

“The relationship, probably with Julius,” Thibodeau said of Payne’s post. “The most important thing was the development of the player with Julius, the energy, the love for the game.”

With Payne gone, assistant coach Darren Erman, who first worked with Thibodeau when they were both assistants in Boston in 2008, will move to the front row of the bench. According to a source, it had been a point of contention last season when Thibodeau’s boys Andy Greer and Erman sat on the second row while Mike Woodson, Johnnie Bryant and Payne sat up front.

“We have a lot of young coaches who are really talented and they will jump in and be ready for more,” said Thibodeau.

Kenny Payne is introduced as Louisville's head coach.
Kenny Payne is introduced as Louisville’s head coach.

Thibodeau praised Knicks owner Jim Dolan

“I want to start by saying thank you [Dolan] for letting him go,” Thibodeau said. “We’re happy for him.”

Thibodeau began his pre-game press conference by offering his condolences to the family of Cavaliers scout Tom Barrize, who passed away from cancer on Friday. Barrize was Thibodeau’s forward scout at Chicago and a longtime Nets scout, briefly serving as caretaker coach there in 2009.

“Just a great basketball guy,” said Thibodeau. “Only sad news.”

Barrize, who lives in New Jersey, has scouted several Knicks games at the Garden for the Cavaliers this season. Knicks’ Julius Randle shed tears over Kenny Payne’s departure


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